According to one survey, the average American spends more than $600 on wedding-related costs—and that’s just to attend as a guest. If you have two or more events coming up this year, that adds up quickly! But with careful planning and some inside tricks, you can make it through wedding season without breaking the bank. Here are some tips so that you can focus on the stuff that matters.
1. PUT YOUR REWARDS POINTS AND MILES TO GOOD USE.
You’ve been racking up airline miles for months (maybe even years), and now is the time to use them. Leverage those air miles you’ve earned, rent a car or book a hotel room with that cash back, or see if your credit card offers discounts to certain retailers where you can shop with reward points rather than cash. Some credit cards let you redeem your cashback rewards for boosted value gift cards, which means you could redeem for even more value.
2. MAKE A VACATION OUT OF IT.
If you’re already traveling a long distance, consider flying out a few days early. Since weddings usually require guests to travel at peak weekend times, you can save by flying on a Tuesday or Wednesday. You will be spending more on lodging each night you are there, so factor that in as you plan your budget.
Even if you don’t add any extra days, book your transportation as soon as you finalize your travel dates. Once upon a time you could save money waiting for last-minute flights, but with so many budget airline options, you won’t be doing yourself any favors waiting until the last minute.
3. RESEARCH HOTEL RATES.
The bride and groom will likely negotiate block room rates for their guests, but don’t assume that is the best price you can find. Before booking, check around the web to see if you can secure a room at the same hotel for a lower price. You also might find cheaper options farther away from the venue. A short drive can be worth it to save $30 each night, but be prepared to take cabs or skip the open bar so you can drive yourself back at night.
4. RENT A HOUSE WITH FRIENDS.
Rather than booking a bunch of hotel rooms, find a great group house online. Depending on the location, you can find some incredible homes for less than $100 per night. Even better, you can save money by cooking and socializing at home rather than out on the town. You will need to account for transportation from the rental property to the wedding, but a cab will likely be cheaper than opting for the hotel where the couple has arranged transportation. If you don’t know many people at the wedding, ask the couple if they have other friends looking to share accommodations. Not only will you save, you might make new friends!
5. DON’T WAIT TO BUY YOUR GIFT.
Find out where the couple has registered as soon as possible. The earlier you scope out the registry, the more options you will have to find a gift that fits your budget. Guests attending bridal showers and engagement parties tend to snap up the less expensive items ahead of the wedding, so try to purchase your gift at least four or five months out. Not only will you look totally on top of things, but shopping early will give you time to get on the mailing lists for the stores where the bride and groom are registered and keep an eye on sales.
6. POOL RESOURCES FOR A GROUP GIFT.
Get a bunch of friends together and go in on a big-ticket item that no one person can afford. Not only will you each likely spend less than you would alone, you will be able to get the couple an expensive item that they might not otherwise receive. (Added bonus: You’ll be first on the invite list when they christen their new grill.)
7. GO BEYOND THE REGISTRY.
Consider giving your time and/or your talents in lieu of a physical or monetary gift. Maybe you are a skilled photographer, makeup stylist, or hand letterer. There are lots of ways to contribute to your friends’ weddings that will save both of you money. Even offering to help run errands the weekend of the wedding will be greatly appreciated, and it will ultimately be a more meaningful gift than a $50 salad bowl.
8. BUY IN BULK.
It may not sound romantic, but when you see items like picture frames and champagne on sale – stock up! Then all you have to do is slip in a beautiful photo of the couple, get some nice wrapping paper, and you’re good to go!
9. INVEST IN A GREAT WEDDING OUTFIT...OR RENT ONE.
Unless you are part of the wedding party, you should not focus too much of your budget on your own attire. Women can invest in a classic black, navy, or gem-toned dress and mix it up with accessories. (Stay away from patterns; they are memorable.) It’s also a good idea to get a good, comfortable pair of neutral shoes that you can wear to every wedding. If you’re hesitant to wear the same dress in front of your friends, swap dresses with a friend or rent a designer dress.
Men will find it easy to change outfits just by mixing shirts and ties with one great suit. If you are attending a black-tie wedding, a black suit and black tie will fit the bill, or you can rent a tuxedo from a local shop or online.
10. IT IS OKAY TO RESPECTFULLY DECLINE AN INVITATION.
As much as you would love to attend every wedding, shower, or bachelor(ette) party, it isn’t always practical. You might have already taken a big vacation this year, so you cannot afford to attend a destination wedding in the Bahamas. Or maybe your friend’s fiancée invited you to her shower just to be polite. It is acceptable to say no. True friends will understand.
11. REMEMBER WHY YOU ARE THERE.
Don’t forget that you are there to celebrate your loved ones and the fact that they have found their partner in life. It’s not worth overspending and risking feeling resentful over what should be a happy occasion. Remember, your friends do not expect (nor want) you to go into debt so that you can be a part of their big day. They would much rather have the pleasure of your company than an expensive gift. Stick to what works for your personal budget and have a great time honoring your friends.
It’s that time of year: Wedding bells are ringing. And ringing. And ringing some more. Feeling overwhelmed by all the events on your calendar? The Discover it Miles Card will automatically match all the miles you earn at the end of your first year, which means 20,000 miles can turn into 40,000. The best part: There’s no limit to how much they’ll match. Terms apply. Visit Discover to learn more.